The Teetotalers serve fans decades of Irish musical talent

From left, John Doyle, Martin Hayes and Kevin Crawford are the Teetotalers.
From left, John Doyle, Martin Hayes and Kevin Crawford are the Teetotalers.
Photo by Judith Joiner PR
| Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

The Teetotalers are taking advantage of decades of friendship and musical performance.

“It actually is more luck than design,” says flutist Kevin Crawford.

Guitarist John Doyle agrees.

“We've all known each other for 20 years or more, but we never had played together,” he says. “When we did, it really seemed to work.”

The two of them and fiddler Martin Hayes will perform April 25 in one of the Roots Cellar concerts at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in Shadyside. The concert by Calliope: The Pittsburgh Folk Music Society will show off the band's facile skill at producing traditional Irish music.

Doyle and Crawford both recount the “names-out-of-a-hat” formation of the band about five years ago at a festival in California. All three were there with other bands when the festival promoter picked them out to form an impromptu band, something he does at every event. He gave them the name the Teetotalers, pointing to their lives as ex-drinkers, and the three took to the stage for the first time.

“About three years later, we got together again, this time working on some songs, and we thought, ‘Hey, this is going pretty well,' ” Crawford says.

Still, it was not until January 2012 that the trio got together officially and hit the road the first time.

“We knew we were producing good music, but we really didn't know we would be a touring band,” he says.

Doyle adds, “Even though we had all known each other 20 years, it was only 2 12 years ago that we got serious about playing together.”

They fit well together, Doyle says, because their approach to Irish music is rooted in the same traditional sense that became popular in what he call the “Irish music revival” of the 1990s.

He says interest in Irish music “ebbs and flows,” having received a big boost from a surge in folk music in the '60s and '70s. A great deal of Appalachian folk music has its roots in Celtic music because it was the music of the settlers. Performance of one leads to interest in the other, Doyle says.

Celtic music faded a bit in the '80s, before regaining strength in the '90s.

Crawford believes the popularity of the stage production “Riverdance” gave Irish music a big lift.

The flutist, who was here with the band Lunasa in March, says when listeners discover something “new” like Irish music, it's as though it had never existed before.

“ ‘This is better than rock 'n' roll,' they'll say,” he says with a laugh.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7852.

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